Good Reasons for Bad Feelings Book Summary - Good Reasons for Bad Feelings Book explained in key points
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Good Reasons for Bad Feelings summary

Randolph M. Nesse

Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry

4.2 (129 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

"Good Reasons for Bad Feelings" by Randolph M. Nesse is a book that explores the evolutionary origins of mental health disorders, arguing that they have served useful purposes throughout history. It provides a fascinating perspective on why our brains can cause us to feel anxious or depressed.

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    Good Reasons for Bad Feelings
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    Natural selection and our modern environments have given us great advantages and great vulnerabilities.

    Through countless generations, the process of natural selection has brought us an array of advantages, such as opposable thumbs and sensitive vocal cords. When paired with our evolved brains, these traits allow us to create handcrafted wonders and to communicate our most profound thoughts.

    But despite the many triumphs of human evolution, we are yet to develop immunity to many of the physical and mental diseases that plague us. While we’ve made certain ailments, like infected wounds and polio, less life-threatening than they once were, we still fall victim to cancers and chronic depression.

    This is, in part, because our environments change with us and consistently introduce new dangers, like processed foods filled with dangerous amounts of sugar, salt and saturated fats. Once upon a time, these ingredients were rare, so our bodies had a healthy craving for them. But due to their relatively sudden abundance, our bodies are ill-equipped to deal with them. And so we find ourselves facing high levels of obesity and heart disease, as well as eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.

    At any rate, there’s little chance that natural selection will help us overcome such issues, since health and longevity are not what natural selection is concerned with. Ultimately, natural selection is all about emphasizing the traits that lead to better chances of reproduction. If you’ve ever felt the desperate desire to have sex with someone of the opposite gender, regardless of any problems this may create, then you’ve likely experienced this process in action.

    Natural selection also has limits and trade-offs that practically guarantee continued imperfections. 

    For example, humans have a relatively strong sense of sight, but we certainly don’t have the kind of telescopic vision that an eagle has. Theoretically, we could develop new eyes that address our imperfections, but this would take thousands of generations, and the process would result in our vision getting worse before it got better.

    Any evolutionary improvement in eyesight or brain power would come at a cost. If we were to gain more telescopic vision, it would mean that we’d lose the peripheral and color vision we currently enjoy. Likewise, if we were to develop bigger, more powerful brains, this would require larger heads, which would increase the risk of death during childbirth.

    Of course, there are certain traits that we’d like to lose, such as feelings of stress and anxiety. But this would also come at a cost. As we’ll see in the next blink, these bad feelings help us to sense danger and stay alive.

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    What is Good Reasons for Bad Feelings about?

    Good Reasons for Bad Feelings (2018) bridges the gap between evolutionary biology and psychiatry by answering some pressing questions about why we feel the way we do. By focusing on our evolutionary development, we can better understand where many of our most instinctual feelings, moods and emotions come from, and how we can better treat our disorders when they arise.

    Good Reasons for Bad Feelings Review

    Good Reasons for Bad Feelings (2019) delves into the evolutionary explanations behind our seemingly negative emotions and explores their usefulness in our lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • By providing compelling insights into the purposes of emotions like anxiety and depression, the book helps us better understand our own mental well-being.
    • Packed with scientific evidence and practical examples, it offers a fresh perspective on mental health, dispelling common misconceptions and challenging societal norms.
    • The author's thought-provoking ideas and engaging writing style keep readers captivated, making complex concepts accessible and ultimately debunking the notion that these emotions are "bad".

    Best quote from Good Reasons for Bad Feelings

    If only emotions always benefitted us! Alas, they were shaped to benefit our genes.

    —Randolph M. Nesse
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    Who should read Good Reasons for Bad Feelings?

    • Anyone affected by mental disorders
    • People who want to better understand how the mind works
    • Students of psychiatry and medicine

    About the Author

    Randolph M. Nesse, MD co-founded the field of evolutionary medicine when he co-authored the book Why We Get Sick in 1994. He is also the founding director of the Center for Evolution and Medicine at the University of Arizona, a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the president of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.

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    Good Reasons for Bad Feelings FAQs 

    What is the main message of Good Reasons for Bad Feelings?

    The main message of Good Reasons for Bad Feelings is that our emotions, even negative ones, serve important purposes.

    How long does it take to read Good Reasons for Bad Feelings?

    The reading time for Good Reasons for Bad Feelings varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Good Reasons for Bad Feelings a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Good Reasons for Bad Feelings is a valuable read for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of human emotions. It offers insightful explanations and practical insights into why we experience negative emotions.

    Who is the author of Good Reasons for Bad Feelings?

    The author of Good Reasons for Bad Feelings is Randolph M. Nesse.

    What to read after Good Reasons for Bad Feelings?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Good Reasons for Bad Feelings, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Lost Connections by Johann Hari
    • The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
    • The Emotion Code by Bradley Nelson
    • Permission to Feel by Marc Brackett
    • The Better Brain by Bonnie J. Kaplan and Julia J. Rucklidge
    • Master Your Emotions by Thibaut Meurisse
    • The Inflamed Mind by Edward Bullmore
    • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
    • Rise from Darkness by Kristian Hall
    • Descartes’ Error by Antonio Damasio